Are you struggling with your milk supply? Or maybe your looking for a way to give your milk a little extra boost? Here are our top four suggestions for how to increase your milk supply - a little or a lot!
1. Nurse Frequently - The best and most effective way to increase your milk supply is to nurse your baby often! Your breast tissue produces milk on demand, so the more stimulation your baby gives to your breasts, the more milk your breasts will make. Spending lots of time skin to skin with baby also helps. Some moms will take a "Baby Vacation" when their little one is going through a growth spurt and needing lots of time at the breast or if they are trying to increase their supply. This vacation involves staying snuggled up in bed with your little one with lots of skin to skin - naked baby against naked breasts - to get those bonding hormones (which also cause your milk to let down) flowing and to increase the chances of nursing more frequently.
2. Check Baby's Latch - Are you nursing frequently and finding that it's still difficult to increase your supply? Consider reaching out to a lactation consultant to see if baby's latch is correct. Making sure baby is latched properly can make all the difference. A proper latch ensures baby's ability to effectively remove the milk from your breasts. Once the milk is removed, that's when your breasts receive the signal to produce more. If the milk isn't being removed, the signal to make more gets missed! Signs of a good latch include: You should be able to see little or no areola while baby is latched on, the latch should not be painful (no biting, pinching or chomping sensations), you can hear or see baby swallowing/gulping, your baby's mouth should appear wide open while latched on and his/her lips should be flanged out like fish lips, and your baby's chin and nose will indent your breast tissue.
3. Eat Galactagogues - Eat what?! That's right - galactagogues. Don't worry... although galactagogue sounds like some kind of far off galaxy, it's actually just a fancy word that means "a food or drug that promotes or increases milk flow." Some foods and herbs are well-known for giving your milk supply a little extra boost. Oatmeal is an excellent way to boost your supply and get in some other great nutrients. It is high in iron and lowers your cholesterol, which are both great for your supply and keeping you healthy. It's usually recommended to eat just one bowl of oatmeal per day. Fennel is another food that's a known galactagogue. Fennel has a sweet, licorice flavor and it can be consumed by drinking it as a tea, used to spice and flavor foods, or eaten as a cooked vegetable. The are also lots of other herbs that can be made into a tea or taken internally in capsules or tinctures to increase milk supply. The most common of these include goats rue, fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa. Be sure to check with your midwife or lactation consultant before introducing any herbs into your diet.
4. Eat your Placenta - Our favorite way to boost your milk supply is to consume your placenta postpartum! Although it hasn't been scientifically proven (Yet! The study is still ongoing!), many women who have consumed their placenta postpartum have reported an increase in milk supply. In the UNLV placentophagy study, 15% of the participants reported an increase or boost in milk supply after consuming their placenta, and in our ownsurvey findings at My San Diego Placenta, 43% of our clients have reported an increase in milk supply with encapsulation. The only way to find out if it works for you is to give it a try!
At the end of the day, what's most important is that your baby is getting what he/she needs. If you feel like you are really struggling with milk supply, we urge you to contact a lactation consultant as soon as possible. Lactation consultants are fantastic women who are well-versed and highly skilled in all things breastfeeding. They're like your wonderful Fairy Milk-Godmother! ;)